A hall of fame induction is an accomplishment only a select few people experience in their lifetime; and even fewer are fortunate enough to call multiple halls of fame home.
Former UW-Eau Claire wrestling head coach Don Parker was inducted into the NWCA Division III Wrestling Coaches’ Association 2014 Hall of Fame on March 13. Parker said his induction was meaningful because his peers nominated him.
“I’ve been inducted into a number of hall of fames and each one has their own special meaning,” Parker said.
Parker is a member of seven halls of fame. He was inducted into the North High School Hall of Fame in 1986, the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame in 2000, the Iowa Glen Brand Hall of Fame in 2007, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Wisconsin Chapter in 2010 and the UW-Eau Claire Hall of Fame in 2013.
He is also a member of the 1964 Northern Iowa football team that was inducted into the Panthers’ Hall of Fame.
Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon met Parker in 2004, while Parker was the Blugolds’ head coach. Kilgallon said Parker’s passion for his job and for his wrestlers was apparent from the forefront.
“I would take a lot of trips down to the wrestling room to watch practices and you could see and feel the intensity level in how he conditioned them and got them ready for competition,” Kilgallon said.
Parker’s passion for wrestling started in his hometown of Hawkeye, Iowa. He was a state champion in high school and went on to win two NCAA Division II titles as a wrestler.
Before arriving to Eau Claire, Parker held stints with several colleges and high schools as a head coach. In 1977 he took the job and remained at the university for 32 years.
During Parker’s 21st season here, he was a victim of a tragic accident. Parker fell from a tree stand after his seat collapsed. The fall left him an incomplete quadriplegic and he was forced to coach his final eleven seasons in a wheelchair.
Kilgallon said anyone who has gone through what Parker did has every reason to be completely negative and mad at the world, but instead he is one of the most positive people he has ever met.
“He deals with the bad cards that were delivered to him and he continued to go on to do what he loves in developing young people and coaching them as wrestlers,” Kilgallon said.
Parker said he credits the sport of wrestling, his rehab and his family for helping him maintain his positive attitude on life. He said the accident was something that just happens and he had to go on in life because for those who do not, life becomes miserable.
Parker still lives in Eau Claire with his wife Carol. The two have three daughters and four grandchildren. Parker said he considers himself blessed. He still has his mind and is fairly physical with his upper body, and he can also drive a vehicle.
Kilgallon said Parker left a legacy at Eau Claire and Parker has been one of his favorite coaches during his time here.
“In all sports, coaches need to strive to make strong connections with their student-athletes,” Kilgallon said. “That is something Coach Parker